Since getting his license in 1977 Dennis Drier has always been near or at the top, of the Natal trainers log. Right now he has the exciting filly Val De Ra who he feels has a big winning chance in the SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville at the end of the month. He has a number of other up and coming sorts. This KZN winter season could be a really successful season for him. Dennis is definitely a trainer to follow.
What is your name and age? Dennis Ralph Drier.
Where do you live? At Summerveld.
Tell us about your family? Am married to Gil and have a son Wayne and a daughter Clair.
Where are your stables? Summerveld.
How did you get into racing? I was born into it as my uncle was the great Syd Laird.
Were you ever involved in any other business before you came into racing? I worked for Rex Trueform for 18 months. As I was not keen to study for the next 5 or 6 years I joined my uncle as assistant trainer.
How long did you spend with Syd Laird? I spent 9 valuable years with him.
What lasting lessons did you learn from Syd Laird? Too many to go into detail but what has remained with me always is to treat every owner as an equal because your smallest owner could one day become your biggest.
Which do you consider to be the best horse you were involved with in the Laird stable? Politician was a horse to remember. He won the J&B Met and the July Handicap amongst others.
When did you decide to take out your open licence? Back in 1977.
Have you only ever trained at Summerveld? Yes and I must say that Summerveld has been good to me.
Which was the first horse you trained in your own right? Daphnis was my first winner. In 1992 I won the July with Spanish Galliard.
How many horses do you have in your yard at the moment? 95.
What do you think would be the ideal number of horses for you to train? To remain competitive I should have between 80 and 100.
Val De Ra has proved to be a filly with exceptional speed. How did it come about that it was decided you should be the trainer? I loved her when I first saw her at the stud and Pippa Mickleburgh decided I was the trainer for her.
Her health problems have been well documented but how nervous were you when she had her first run after the year break? I was very nervous and the tension was huge. When she came through with flying colours the relief was just as great.
It seems pretty certain, all being well with her, that she will run in the SA Fillies Sprint over 1200m at Scottsville. How confident are you that she will get the trip considering that the final 200m is very stiff? Now that she is a year older and has had more time to mature I am confident.
If all goes according to plan do you think she would probably go back to stud at the end of the season or would you consider taking her to Dubai either by yourself or Mike de Kock? That remains the decision of Pippa and the boys at Avontuur – if she went, she would go with Mike.
Apart from Val De Ra which is the best horse in your yard right now? The up and coming Beach Beauty.
Which horses from your yard would you think will be profitable to follow over the winter season? Beach Beauty, Never Forever and Venetian Lady.
With KZN season about to get into full swing which horses, other than your own, do you think are going to make a big impact? Past Master and Igugu.
Do you have a stable jockey? Yes Alec Forbes and Stuart Randolph.
How many jockeys ride work for you in the morning? Usually 3 or 4 come to ride work.
How keen are you on the breeding side of horse racing? Very keen – it is an important and essential part of training and choosing yearlings.
Do you still like to visit stud farms to look at the ‘babies’? Very much so. It keeps one right in touch.
Do you like to study pedigrees? Yes. I like to spend time studying the pedigrees.
Which stallions do you really like? Captain Al, Var, Dynasty, Jet Master, Black Minnaloushe.
What are your ambitions with regard to racing or will you take it as it comes? I feel I have achieved my ambitions winning from 1000m Computaform Sprint and 2 200m July Handicap and the 3 200m Gold Cup. I would love to win the Met.
Which other members of your family are involved in racing? Alec Laird and Charles are heavily involved as trainers.
Do you ever advise family members or friends to have a punt on a horse you really think will win? Maybe – sometimes.
Do you ever have a big punt on one of your horses? No – punting is not my thing.
Do you have a favourite recourse in SA? Yes I love Greyville.
Some owners and trainers are saying that nowadays it all comes to buying power. How fair do you think this comment is or does it still take a lot of common sense, and a keen eye to have success? Buying power is what you need. A keen eye is a big asset and of course Lady Luck plays a big part.
It is a well known fact that keeping a horse in training is now a very expensive exercise. Have you managed to keep the costs down in any way? I try to keep my cost down to a very competitive rate.
For someone determined to punt horses what sort of bet would you advise if pressed to make an answer? I think the PA is a pretty safe bet.
You appear to be very cool and calm after your horse has won but do you feel any nerves before a big race? I am always very nervous before a big race.
With racing going through some tough times do you think personal ambitions and politics play too big a part in the administration of racing? Yes – enough said!
If asked to give your opinion how would you say racing in SA can pull itself out of the doldrums it finds itself in? We must all work together for the good of the game.
Was there any particular personality who influenced you to make racing such a big part of your life? Yes my uncle Syd Laird.
For you personally what has been the most exciting moment of the past year or two? Bringing Val De Ra back to win the Computaform Sprint.
What is your preferred way to celebrate a big win? I like to spend an evening out with my family and close friends.
If you have to name the most important lesson you have learnt about racing what would you say that is? When I stopped punting it was really good for me. Honesty and loyalty to my owners is paramount.
Is there a most memorable moment in your time in racing career? Winning the July with Spanish Galliard has been a highlight.
What is your philosophy on the racing game? Take it as it comes – the good and the bad.
From what you have observed of racing do you think the game is straight? Yes I think the game is very straight.
If you had one piece of advice for your fellow associates in the racing world what would it be? Be honest and never give up. The dream horse could be around the corner and the game is hard enough without any back stabbing.